Towards reconciliation

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IT has now been officially confirmed that the Government was in talks with some factions of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as part of the national reconciliation process.

In an interview with TRT World, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while acknowledging that the Government was in contact with the TTP, said those who lay down arms and agree to lead life as normal peaceful citizens would be offered general amnesty.

Earlier, President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also spoke on the possibility of offering general amnesty to those members of the TTP who had not remained involved in “criminal activities” and who laid down their weapons and agreed to adhere to the Pakistani Constitution.

Reacting to the report, PPP leaders criticized the Prime Minister terming the move akin to “sprinkling salt on the wounds of martyrs’ families” and questioning why parliament was not taken into confidence over such a “sensitive issue”.

The demand for taking Parliament into confidence is quite justified but there is nothing wrong with the move itself as it opens prospects for durable peace and security in the country.

The stance of the PPP is astonishing as politicians always plead for dialogue and during its tenure the PPP leadership including the then President Asif Ali Zardari repeatedly expressed his desire to engage militants in Balochistan in talks.

It is known to all that some of the militants in Balochistan are also involved in terrorist and criminal activities and there is also proof of their linkages with some foreign intelligence agencies.

Some people go astray for some reason and it is always preferable to make efforts to bring them to the national mainstream through discussion and dialogue than try to eliminate them through the use of force, which has its own implications and consequences.

We have been emphasizing in these columns since long that if the United States and its coalition partners were willing to talk to Taliban and finally entered into peace deals with them, then why not to initiate a similar process of dialogue with members of TTP.

There is, indeed, a visible difference between the two moves – the US approached the Taliban after failure of its Afghan strategy but Pakistan defence forces launched a successful campaign against TTP which stands uprooted from previously-held Pakistani territories.

It is now operating from some ‘save havens’ in Afghanistan and had patronage of the previous Afghan Government but the Taliban have now vowed not to allow their land to be used against any other country including Pakistan.

Therefore, Pakistan is talking to the TTP factions from a position of strength and it is unlikely that anything in contravention of the law and the Constitution would emerge from the process.

General amnesty has also worked in neighbouring Afghanistan and it is because of this that the Taliban are able to unite the country and govern with somewhat ease.

If we were against the use of military power in Afghanistan then why oppose peace dialogue with militants in Pakistan when the objective is to get them to agree to lay down arms and become part of the national mainstream.

Continuation of the conflict, albeit at low level, is fraught with serious consequences both for life of the people as well as economy of Pakistan and, therefore, any attempt aimed at stopping more bloodshed is appreciable.

Successful culmination of talks with the TTP might also have salutary impact on the proposed peace process with estranged elements in Balochistan.

Given the changed regional scenario, there is urgency for such a process so that these elements do not fall prey to anti-Pakistan forces that are active once again after failure of their Afghan project.

TTP has apparently responded positively by announcing cessation of hostilities in South Waziristan citing ‘secret talks’ with the authorities concerned and hopefully this would pave the way for an ultimate deal especially when the Afghan Taliban are lending support to the peace process.

The announcement is also an indication that the TTP believes the talks are moving in the right direction and this augurs well for the success of the move and restoration of durable peace.

As the Afghan Taliban are in the loop and they have made public commitments not to allow use of Afghan soil against other countries, the TTP is under pressure to change its course and there is logic to exploit this opportunity in the long-term interests of the country.

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